Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-6-11

Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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By Baseball Newstalgist, Bill Chuck

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top of the 1st
No, that’s not how many players have hit 500 home runs, it’s,
Baseball… Then and Now

News Item: June 16, 1989 – Sammy Sosa makes his major league debut for the Texas Rangers.

Some misguided souls may try to tell you that hitting 600 home runs has become a devalued feat. Don’t believe them! Do not, under any circumstances, let such naysayers in any way, shape or form take anything away from what Ken Griffey, Jr., has accomplished. Because 600 home runs is still a very rare and special milestone.

Maybe a case can be made that the 500 home run mark has been debased and defiled since destart of say, de90s. There are currently 24 individuals who have hit 500 or more home runs, and Gary Sheffield, with 483, is poised to join them, if not later this season, then in 2009. A-Rod, The Big Hurt and Gentleman Jim Thome all hit their 500th last year. Manny was just being Manny when he hit his 500th recently. That’s four out of 24 within a year. Is that debasement of the standard? Consider that 10 of the 24 had major league careers that ended after 1990. Is 42 percent since the start of the last decade debasement? Fans of just relatively long memory will recall when the 500 Club was very exclusive indeed… and every fan knew who they were… Ruth, Foxx, Williams and Ott. And that was it, at least until the second half of the 1960s, when they were joined by the Mick, Willie, Hammering Henry and Mr. Cub – none of whom need any further introduction. Still a pretty exclusive bunch. Now it seems as if every Eddie and Raffy have hit 500.

Nonetheless, you might get an argument on this one should you ask Fred McGriff, Lou Gehrig (theoretically, of course), Stan Musial, Willie Stargell (again, theoretically), Dave Winfield, Jose Canseco and Carl Yastrzemski what they think. Or, ask Sheffield should, by chance, his body give out on him before he gets to 500. All eight of these worthies were/are within 10 percent to 500 home runs, and only Sheffield has the opportunity to still make it. Think they all might like to have a few more swings to make it to 500? Maybe they might think it’s still a pretty exclusive group. After all, there have been an awful lot of power hitters who, for various reasons, never got as close as the eight previously mentioned, even if they did win the genetic lottery to have the ability to hit large number of baseballs traveling at a high rate of speed some 350 feet or 400 feet. Jeff Bagwell, Juan Gonzalez, Mike Piazza, Billy Williams, Duke Snider, Dale Murphy, Johnny Bench, Frank Howard, Jim Rice, Albert Belle, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Perez, Matt Williams, Rocky Colavito, Gil Hodges, Ralph Kiner, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize, Dick Allen, George Foster, Boog Powell, Darryl Strawberry, Hank Greenberg, et al.

You can argue both ways over the 500 home run standard. But, there’s no way you can argue over 600… a figure than has now been reached exactly six times in baseball history. Just in case you’ve been asleep…

Barry Bonds 762
Hank Aaron 755
Babe Ruth 714
Willie Mays 660
Sammy Sosa 609
Ken Griffey, Jr. 600

Now maybe there should be a couple of asterisks or codicils in there, but, either way, that’s it. And if you still think that having three of those six reach the mark since the turn of the century makes 600 less of an accomplishment, take a look at how it compares to some of the other career batting marks. In some areas you’ll find that there is an upper echelon of accomplishment wherein the leader boards have been seriously effected by individuals who have played into the 1990s or beyond. In others, the Gold Standard is still pretty much the Gold Standard.

The most obvious example of the former is 3000 hits. Long the career Gold Standard for hitters, a case can certainly be made that this plateau, like 500 home runs, has been somewhat eroded over the past few years. There are now 27 players who have 3000 or more hits, and 11 of them (Molitor, Murray, Ripken, Brett, Yount, Gwynn, Winfield, Biggio, Henderson, Palmeiro and Boggs) made it there since 1990. Similarly, 5000 total bases isn’t nearly as rare as it used to be. With Griffey poised to become the 18th player to reach this mark (he has 4975 at the moment), no less than six others (Bonds, Murray, Palmeiro, Winfield, Ripken, Brett) have made it that far since 1990. If you prefer RBIs, you’ll find that 1800 used to be a significant number, but that Bonds, Murray, Winfield and Palmeiro have all reached that standard, and Griffey stands at 1730. There are now 17 in that group as well. The same thing has happened with doubles – 600 used to be pretty rare, but now there are 14 who have topped that mark, the most recent being Biggio, Brett, Molitor, Ripken and Bonds.

So you can postulate that hits, total bases, RBIs and doubles are all hitting stats that have been somewhat devalued in recent years. However, there are other career hitting marks that are just about as rare as a 600th tater. They are…

1700 Walks – 8 players
2000 Runs – 7
2400 Singles – 7
1300 Extra Base Hits – 5

Although Bonds and Henderson have invaded some of these lists in recent years, these are still rare accomplishments. You can also push up the standards for some of the marks that have become more common to thus obtain rarer lists…

3500 Hits – 5 players
2000 RBIs – 3
700 Doubles – 4

The truth is, just how good a standard is sort of depends on where you draw the line. Three thousand hits isn’t that big a deal anymore, just like 500 home runs is getting sort of common. But, if you change the focus to 3500 hits and 600 home runs, that’s a different story. It would seem fairly safe to say that any career statistical standard that has been reached 10 times or less in the almost 140 years of major league baseball is pretty damn special. And while these Gold Standards may well be forced to change upwards (or not change – the only player above 175 triples who played since World War 2 is Stan Musial) over time, for now we can and should celebrate Junior’s accomplishment as being truly historic, one worthy of “The Natural.”

Thanks as always to Billy-Ball contributor John Shiffert

Also, the fact that John doesn’t choose to asterisk the evil ones is his choice, not Billy-Ball’s.

Top of the 2nd
As you can see I’m hoping to become a tabloid headline writer. But the fact is that last night in the 7th inning of the Cardinals 7-2 victory over the Reds, the great Albert Pujols, crumpled one step out of the batter’s box aggravating a left calf strain that has sometimes limited him to pinch-hit duty and he screamed out in pain and had to be helped from the field. Pujols grimaced while being carried and, according to one teammate, shook in pain.

The Cards haven’t yet put Pujols on the disabled list, but they have quickly called up Chris Duncan just 12 days after he was optioned to Class AAA Memphis. Pujols would become the first Cardinals position player to land on the disabled list this season.

Feel the pain:

Top of the 3rd
Ted Lilly picked up the victory and Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto homered as the Cubs topped the Braves, 10-5. Chicago’s record at Wrigley Field is now 27-8. Adding injury to insult, the Braves starting pitcher Tom Glavine was forced to leave after three innings with an elbow strain that will send him to the DL. This will be Glavine’s second trip to the DL this season, and second time in his 22-year career. He was on the disabled list with a hamstring injury in mid-April.

Glavine said the elbow has been bothering him for nearly a month and has gotten progressively worse. He will return to Atlanta and have an MRI.

“It hurt from the minute I started throwing tonight,” he said.

“We’re going to disable him. Give him a breather,” manager Bobby Cox said. “See if his elbow can get better. … It was hurting him like the dickens.”

And for those of you who are familiar with the works of Charles Dickens, you know how painful his elbow must be.

Top of the 4th
Enough is enough for the Detroit Tigers. They have optioned left-hander Dontrelle Willis to Class A Lakeland.

“Our objective is to get Dontrelle back to being Dontrelle,” Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said at a pregame press conference last evening. “We don’t want to put a timeframe on this; we want to get it right. The arm strength is still there on occasion, the breaking ball is still there, but we want to get him back to being comfortable throwing strikes.”

Top of the 5th
Actually, the Los Angeles Dodgers optioned rookie shortsop Chin-Iung Hu to Triple-A Las Vegas on Monday. Hu was batting a paltry .159 in 49 games this season. The Dodgers obtained Angel Berroa from Kansas City on Friday and the 2003 American League Rookie of the Year will likely remain the everyday shortstop until Rafael Furcal returns from the disabled list.

Top of the 6th
Take a look at the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker’s video tour of Fenway Park:

Top of the 7th
Mariners (Felix Hernandez) at Blue Jays (Shaun Marcum), 12:37
Rays (Scott Kazmir) at Angels (John Lackey), 3:35
Orioles (Garrett Olson) at Red Sox (Bartolo Colon), 7:05
Twins (Nick Blackburn) at Indians (Paul Byrd), 7:05
White Sox (Javier Vazquez) at Tigers (Justin Verlander), 7:05
Rangers (Vicente Padilla) at Royals (Kyle Davies), 8:10
Yankees (Darrell Rasner) at A’s (Justin Duchscherer), 10:05

Nationals (John Lannan) at Pirates (Ian Snell), 7:05
Cardinals (Braden Looper) at Reds (Johnny Cueto), 7:10
Diamondbacks (Brandon Webb) at Mets (Mike Pelfrey), 7:10
Phillies (Cole Hamels) at Marlins (Andrew Miller), 7:10
Braves (Jair Jurrjens) at Cubs (Ryan Dempster), 8:05
Brewers (Manny Parra) at Astros (Brandon Backe), 8:05
Giants (Tim Lincecum) at Rockies (Ubaldo Jimenez), 9:05
Dodgers (Chad Billingsley) at Padres (Randy Wolf), 10:05

Top of the 8th
Don’t count out the Yankees…yet. They have been playing much better baseball since A-Rod and Jorge Posada have returned from the DL, but the difference may be leadoff skills of Johnny Damon. Damon is 30 for his last 59 (.508) with 11 RBI, eight extra-base hits and 10 runs scored. His batting average has gone from .265 to .325. That was third in the American League at the start of play yesterday, trailing only Milton Bradley (.338) and Joe Mauer (.327). In addition, his on-base percentage had climbed from .340 to .392.

Top of the 9th
Billy-Ball, his ownself will be talking about the book and baseball today –
3:30p-4:00p ET–WCAP-AM (Lowell, MA) on the “Merrimac Magazine–PM Edition”, hosted by Lou Blasi and Ryan Johnston.

4:25p-4:35p ET–WKRD-AM (Louisville, KY) on “The Afternoon Underdogs” show, hosted by Adam Neft and Tony Vanetti.

6:30p-6:50p ET–WNDB-AM (Daytona Beach, FL) on “The Marc Bernier Show”, hosted by Marc Bernier.

Bottom of the 9th
Bill Chuck is the creator of and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales,” with a Foreword by Jon Miller available now from ACTA Sports.


Autographed first editions are available by contacting, or order directly from Acta Sports, or from your favorite bookstore worldwide.

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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports,,, and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.